In general, I feel the same way as Yglesias and Attackerman about the Venezuelan Embassy’s aggressive spamming tactics. In this case, however, the Venezuelan ambassador’s letter to the editor of Armed Forces Journal is a useful corrective to Peter Brookes’ hysterical nonsense about the threat that Hugo Chavez poses to motherhood, apple pie, etc. While Brookes raises some legitimate concerns about possible Venezuelan efforts to help Iran evade international banking and finance restrictions, most of his argument is simply garbage. For example, he hoists the trusty “why would an oil exporting state ever need nuclear power” canard, when the answer is quite obvious; nuclear power used for domestic needs means that more oil can be exported on the international market. The other terrifying oil exporting, nuclear power generating state in the Western hemisphere is called “Canada,” and is well known to exert a destabilizing influence on all of its neighbors. As for the military buildup that Venezuela is allegedly using to intimidate its neighbors, I’ll simply let the ambassador tell the story:
About 1.1 percent of Venezuela’s gross national product goes to military spending, below the South American regional average of 1.7 percent and significantly less than Colombia (5.7 percent), Chile (2.9 percent) and Brazil (1.5 percent). Despite having the region’s second-largest GDP, Venezuela is fourth in total defense spending, behind Brazil, Colombia and Chile.
As to specific concerns Brookes raised, the following is important to consider: The purchase of Russian fighter jets corresponds exactly to the number of F-16s sold to Venezuela by the U.S. in 1980. Since the U.S. has refused to supply key parts necessary for these planes, Venezuela has been forced to look elsewhere to rebuild its air force. Therefore, the new planes come as a replacement, and not as an expansion, of its existing fleet..
With regard to Brookes’ complaints as to who is selling Venezuela these goods, it bears recognizing that in 2006, the Bush administration imposed a set of politically motivated sanctions on Venezuela limiting the sale of arms, military goods and dual-use equipment. That Venezuela is purchasing needed equipment from countries other than the U.S. is not a surprise — it’s a basic necessity.
The inability of the right wing foreign policy machine to distinguish between a leftish leader with autocratic tendencies and mild aspirations to regional influence and TEH GREATEST THREAT TO AMERICAN SECURITY SINCE THE LAST GREATEST THREAT TO AMERICA remains troubling.